Cincinnati St. Xavier came up short of its second straight Division I state championship last year, falling to Cincinnati Colerain in the regional finals finishing 10-2. This season, led by running back Darius Ashley (5-9, 190, Sr.), St. X appears loaded and could make another run at a state title.
The Bombers have 14 returning starters, seven on each side of the ball. Seven of them started as sophomores in 2005 when they captured the state championship. That includes the lightning-quick Ashley who rushed for 1,634 yards as a sophomore and 1,450 yards last year.
“I think the expectations around here are always high, but with so many quality players returning, the community is very excited,” head coach Steve Specht said. “Our senior class is exceptional.”
Specht is one of the top coaches in the state and he’s not one to sugarcoat things or exaggerate. For him to drop a word like “exceptional” you know the Bombers might be on the verge of something special this season.
And PrepNation.com certainly agrees. The website ranks St. Xavier as the preseason No. 1 team in the country this season, edging out Southlake (Tex.) Carroll, Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic and Miami (Fla.) Northwestern. The Bombers will host DeMatha Catholic in week three in a rare showdown of national powers.
Six St. Xavier players have already received Division I scholarship offers and Specht says a half dozen more are capable of playing at least at the Division I-AA level next year.
As for that loaded senior class, it includes returning starters such as: QB Jon Hurley (6-2, 195, Sr.), SS Fred Craig (6-2, 210, Sr.; Stanford recruit), ILB Nick Schneider (6-3, 230, Sr.), OLB Evan Miller (6-0, 195, Sr.), OL Max Bauman (6-2, 270, Sr.), FB Luca Romeo (6-1, 215, Sr.) and TE/WR Stephon Ball (6-4, 215, Sr.).
The junior class is led by LB/DE Pat Muldoon (6-3, 235, Jr.).
It will be interesting to see how many rushing yards Ashley can attain this year. He is not the biggest back around, but he runs with surprising power to go along with his speed. He also has excellent vision and cut-back abilities.
“First and foremost, Darius is an excellent young man on and off the field,” Specht said. “He has phenomenal acceleration. We want to be balanced, but he will get the football a lot for us, obviously.”
One thing St. X won’t have to worry about is not being battle-tested by the time the playoffs roll around.
“We have a challenging schedule and that is by design,” Specht said. “Our kids like to play the best of the best and it gets us ready for the postseason. Hopefully we can get there and advance further than we did last year. We’re excited to get going.”
Again, Specht isn’t joking about that tough slate. It includes four out-of-state opponents and six of the best Division I programs in Ohio. It’s never an easy road in an excellent football state like Ohio, but a state championship could very well be in the cards for the Bombers this year.
Cincinnati St. Xavier
|8/25/2007||@ Cincinnati Winton Woods||II|
|9/2/2007||Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic||–|
|9/14/2007||Louisville (Ky.) Trinity||–|
|9/21/2007||Indianapolis (Ind.) Chatard||–|
|10/13/2007||@ Lakewood St. Edward||I|
|10/20/2007||@ Cleveland St. Ignatius||I|
|10/26/2007||@ Archbishop Moeller||I|
Helmet images from The Ohio High School Helmet Project